Pinecrest Drops Scotland to Claim First League Title Since 1986
By Charlie Bergmann
Special to The Pilot
The Pinecrest boys settled several matters that were a long time coming at James Moore Gym Monday night.
Coach Mike Apple's squad wrapped up the school's first regular season conference championship in boys' basketball since 1986 with a 56-44 victory over Scotland County, and Pinecrest also reached the 20-win milestone for the first time in this century.
The Patriots (20-2, 8-0) hold a two-game lead in the Southeastern Conference over the second-place Scots (12-9, 6-2) with two games to play. They clinched the title by virtue of their two wins over the team from Laurinburg.
Daquain Towns led the winners with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the defensive battle. James Baldwin was also in double figures with 11 points. Dominique Clark led the visitors with 13.
Apple recalled being in his first year as a schoolteacher at Union Pines in 1986 when the team coached by current Charlotte Bobcats assistant Jeff Capel led the Patriots to a 22-5 record.
"None of these guys were born, so they can't appreciate that," Apple said. "It's a big deal for me personally, and I think it's a huge deal for the kids in that room. I really appreciate their efforts and the efforts of the coaching staff."
The Patriots have performed spectacularly at times on offense during their current 10-game winning streak, but defensive play carried the day on this night. That started with 6-foot-3 Julian Brewer using his reach and quickness to torment the much smaller Scot point guards.
"That's why Coach mainly has me on the point guards, because it's so hard to get around me," the senior said after scoring four points on an off-night offensively. "Coach told me tonight to just go out and play hard on the defensive side, and that's what I did."
Trailing 13-6, the Patriots scored the last 11 points of the first quarter. A three by Cedrick Threadgill tied the game at 13. Faronte Drakeford added six points off the bench.
Towns scored eight points in the second period as the Patriots increased their advantage to 32-24 at halftime. They led by as many 15 in the second half until the Scots got within eight at 52-44 with 2:20 left in the game. The Patriot defense stiffened, and Scotland did not score again.
The Patriots held Scot guard Mo Covington to 10 points after he scored 23 in the first meeting between the teams.
"I definitely thought our defense was ahead of our offense tonight," Apple said. "I give a lot of credit to Scotland for that. A four- or six-point run was pretty good the way the game was being played. Harron (Carson) and Phillip (Wallace) took turns guarding Covington, and both did a tremendous job."
Tied for fifth place in Class 4A rankings this week by the NCPreps.com media poll, the Patriots will receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament that begins on Monday. Still remaining in the regular season was a road game at Richmond County on Tuesday and a Senior Night contest against Hoke County at home this Friday.
Threadgill and Brewer have been varsity players since they were freshman, when the team finished 12-15. The Patriots won 19 games in 2008 and 2009, finishing third in the disbanded Mid-Southeastern Conference each time.
"It's exciting to finally win the conference after we always got so close," Threadgill said. "I really think me and the other seniors are leading the team. Players like Phillip and Faronte (juniors) have grown in every game and every practice, and that really helps the team a lot."
The Pinecrest freshmen team coached by Josh Newton defeated South View 54-43 on Monday to finish the season with an 11-4 record. The Patriots were led in the scoring column by Montel King with 22 points and Ben Williams with 10.
Scotland 13 11 9 11 - 44
Pinecrest 17 15 14 10 - 56
Scotland - Covington 3 2-2 10, Robinson 3 0-0 6, Clark 5 3-5 13, McIntyre 3 0-0 6, Cromartie 2 1-1 5, Browne 2 0-0 4, McRae 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 6-8 44. Pinecrest - Wallace 3 2-5 8, Carson 1 2-2 4, Towns 6 2-2 14, Brewer 1 2-4 4, Baldwin 4 2-2 11, McLaughlin 0 0-0 0, Threadgill 2 1-2 7, Drakeford 4 0-0 8, Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 11-17 56. Three-point goals: (S) 2 (Covington 2); (P) 3 (Threadgill 2, Baldwin).
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